In a big boost to Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, two-term congressman and “tea party” favorite Jason Chaffetz backed away Monday from a threatened intraparty challenge of the venerable GOP lawmaker.
Chaffetz, 44, announced his surprise decision at an afternoon news
conference in Salt Lake City, saying a run for Senate would result in “a
"I don’t think that’s necessarily in my best interests,” Chaffetz said.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our party, the nation or our
Up until Monday, Chaffetz seemed prepared to take on Hatch, who was
first elected in 1976 and has served longer than any senator in Utah
history. He is bidding next year for a seventh term.
The two Republicans exchanged repeated barbs over the last few months,
as Chaffetz stepped up his travels around the state, winning applause
for his attacks on the 77-year-old senator. Chaffetz also received
encouragement from conservative groups outside Utah, including the Club
for Growth and FreedomWorks; both played an important role in last
year’s ouster of GOP Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.
A conservative by just about any measure, Bennett ran afoul of many tea
party acolytes and grass-roots Republicans by supporting the 2008 Wall
Street bailout -- which he deemed necessary to save the country from
economic collapse -- and by working on bipartisan healthcare legislation
with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. Bennett was replaced by Republican Mike Lee, who ran under the tea party banner.
Hatch has a similar history of working across the aisle, most famously
with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. But unlike
Bennett, who was slow responding to the challenge he faced, Hatch has
been actively positioning himself for reelection. (Continues here)